GRIN attends IJA Media Conference

Velia Moncada
Gila River Indian News


This year the Indigenous Journalist Association (IJA), formerly known as the Native American Journalist Association (NAJA), as of Aug. 11, 2023, hosted their National Native Media Conference in Winnipeg, Canada, at the RBC Convention Centre.  The GRIN news staff was fortunate to attend this three-day experience and benefit from what the conference offered.  Conference Sessions ranged with various resources to assist journalists working in Indigenous media.  The topics covered included newsroom staff wellness and conversations surrounding Indigenous communities, to name a few.


Former GRIN newsperson Christopher Lomahquahu was recognized at the conference as the second annual Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Native American Journalists Association and ICT fellow. Lomahquahu is attending Arizona State University, pursuing a Master’s in Investigative Journalism.  With a background in social work, he aspires to empower communities and learn more about how state and federal governments impact Indian Country.  “There are a lot of different pathways you can go into with journalism, and it’s not just simply writing.  Photojournalism and videos, using digital content and tools to tell a story, if you’re into that, you can consider journalism as a field of interest,” said Lomahquahu.


With technology constantly changing and media advancing simultaneously, the conference provided insightful sessions on how Google tools have transformed research for modern journalists.  Indigenous keynote speakers from different media news outlets shared their knowledge and experience covering news in native communities.  “We are trying to exist just as people without being radical and just exist as Native People,” said Anna McKenzie (Cree from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation) editor, for IndigiNews.  In her remarks on newsroom wellness, McKenzie encourages media outlets to decolonize their staff’s rules regarding well-being with a more holistic approach in the media age of “reconciliation.”


Anchorwoman from ABC News, Charly Edsitty (Navajo Nation), and Jay Alpert, Senior Producer at ABC News Network, hosted an ABC News Storyteller Summit.  They facilitated a conversation for journalists on covering Indigenous Communities.  Each shared first-hand knowledge and lessons of what it takes, as a writer, to cover stories of every topic.  Both stressed the need for journalists to approach and tell their stories in a way that genuinely represents the subject and consider how one might want their own story told as a subject and not only as a journalist.  Another critical factor was acknowledging that not all rural communities have access to the internet, so that’s another hurdle that might impede a story.


As a journalist, the IJA conference was an experience that has helped transform a staff’s perspective on handling topics regarding Indigenous communities and their stories nationwide.